The Ultimate Fighting Championship 97 could be summed up as both historic and disappointing. You’d be disappointed if you are a Chuck Liddell fan. You’d be disappointed if you shelled out $50 for a very boring main-event. This was a historic show for the same main-event that saw Anderson Silva break a UFC record. Historic as well, for fans around the world who may have watched the final fight of a UFC legend. Beyond the records, Chuck Liddell’s future is the story coming out of UFC 97.
Anderson Silva was the advertised main-event on UFC 97, but Chuck Liddell was the show. Liddell was coming off of his first career knockout loss. Liddell had what could arguably bethe toughest opponent of his career in Mauricio “Shogun” Rua. At 18-3, Rua is far better than he has shown in his UFC stint. This was a fight about more than a championship belt. This was a fight about redemption, the future and careers of two men at a crossroads in UFC.
I thought both guys looked to be in tremendous shape coming into the fight. Rua looked far better physically than he has since coming to UFC. Liddell looked leaner than at any other time that I can remember. Both guys looked focus and ready to go once the bell sounded. I don’t think there is a doubt in anyone’s mind that either fighter didn’t take the other as a serious threat.
I thought the fight was exciting. Liddell pushed hard from the opening bell. Rua looked confident and unafraid about standing up with Liddell. Liddell looked good as he got out of trouble early and continued pressing Shogun. Rua wound up catching Liddell with a clean punch to the head with only 32 seconds to go in the first-round. The fight was stopped after several punches to a downed Liddell. It was a sad moment when a confused Liddell popped up asking the referee “what happened.”
Liddell was interviewed after the fight and openly questioned his own future. This was Liddell’s fourth loss in his last five fights. UFC has a big dilemma here with Liddell. If Liddell wants to continue fighting, does UFC continue to pay him the big money and put him in there with top guys? It is obvious that Liddell is losing his speed and reflexes. However, there is no doubt that he is still a draw. The drawing power is there, but does UFC want to continue booking him with potential blood on their hands?
The other big news was Anderson Silva’s record win last night against Thales Leites. Anderson Silva beat Tito Ortiz’s record of five consecutive successful title defenses. This may be lost on the fact that the champ got booed out of the building at the end of the night. The crowd grew restless towards the end of the first-round of a rather boring fight. By the third round the entire place was chanting “GSP!” The end of the show saw the sold-out Montreal crowd chant “bullsh*t” in reaction to the decision.
This was the second Anderson Silva fight in a row that would be considered a disappointment. I don’t know how much you can blame him for this one. It looked like Silva wanted to press and struck whenever he had an opening. The problem is that he is just too damn good for someone like Leites. Leites was intimidated and didn’t want to engage at all. Silva doesn’t have bad fights against confident opponents. Other than possibly Michael Bipsing, I don’t see anyone in the division that can give this guy competition. It is going to take Silva to either weight-change class or a quality opponent to change weight-class in order for this to happen. Can anyone say GSP?
Overall I’d say it was a pretty disappointing show for UFC. It is never a good sign when you have your audience standing up, booing, and yelling “bullsh*t at the end of an event. UFC could face the same problem with the next event. Rashad Evans isn’t the most dazzling fighter, and either is Lyoto Machida. At this point I’d think you’d be better served to save your money and wait for UFC 100 with GSP and Brock Lesnar topping the bill. The other answer would be to book your own fights in the new UFC video game.
Pre-order the UFC Undisputed video game by clicking here.
Check out Chuck Liddell’s autobiography, Iceman: My Fighting Life by clicking here.
Click here to check out some UFC t-shirts.